Notwithstanding the situation in the South or the pressures of his election campaign, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week found time to show representatives of the Golan Regional Council, Katzrin Mayor Dimi Apartsev and Golan Regional Council chairman Haim Rokah, the executive order signed by US President Donald Trump affirming America’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. The European Union and Russia were quick to criticize Trump’s move, which they consider to a violation of international law.
■ PRESIDENT Reuven Rivlin, who is a former speaker of the Knesset, has gone into reverse mode and is talking about election-related topics while carefully refraining from touching on specific political issues. When visiting an IDF induction center last week, he made a point of telling the rookie recruits that the IDF must remain outside of the political discourse. The IDF is not part of the debate, he emphasized. In battle, in training, in action, all fight together without reference to political beliefs. “The IDF belongs to all of us. The IDF is for all of us,” he declared, telling the soldiers, most of whom will be voting for the first time, “From now on, the IDF is you. We must do all we can to ensure that the IDF remains the people’s army – the army of all parts of the people; an army whose doors are open to all. That is its strength, and that is what makes it unique.”
■ EARLIER IN the week, Rivlin went to Beit Shemesh to deliver a civics lesson to 12th grade students from schools, yeshivot and ulpanim. He chose Beit Shemesh, which is largely a religious enclave, because in the last municipal elections, voters chose a woman mayor, which in itself was proof of Rivlin’s constant contention that Israel is both a Jewish and a democratic state. Naturally, Mayor Aliza Bloch was on hand to welcome him to her city. Rivlin told the students that Bloch’s election was indicative of the fact that there is always an alternative. Rivlin also stressed that in every democracy the true sovereign is not the government, but rather the people. Without the people casting their votes, there would be no government. It is the people who ultimately determine which party will head the incoming administration.
With conflicting media reports about the president’s role in appointing a prime minister, the students were eager to know what Rivlin’s role will actually be. He told them that the president of the State of Israel does not appoint the prime minister. That is the prerogative of the Knesset. As a rule, the president has to take into account what the people wanted in the election, as expressed in the voting results. If there are more than 61 Members of Knesset who recommend a particular MK, that means that the people have decided to give that person the chance to form a government, and the president may then task that person to do so.
The question is, what does the president do when there is no majority for a single legislator? What should he take into account? Should it be the biggest party, the one with the most votes, or should he consider how many MKs support one candidate as opposed to how many support a different candidate, and whether the MK who received the most support has the best chance of persuading others to form a coalition with him? Rivlin conceded that these are very difficult problems for the president to resolve.
The students also sought Rivlin’s advice with regard to voting.
Although voting is a simple act in practical terms, he said, it is very important, and the way in which citizens vote for their representatives should not be taken for granted, because so many people in the world do not enjoy that right. Therefore, those who do have it, should give it serious consideration. This means understanding not only who is at the top of the list, but also looking at the other candidates on it, and finding out what their positions are on issues that matter to various segments of the population. These are only some of the questions that voters should be asking themselves ahead of the elections, he said.
It is not the government’s right to lead the people, it is its duty to do so. Even though the government is chosen by the nation to lead it, there are times when the government is required to make decisions that appear controversial to the public, he said. But that is because the public does not always know the full range of considerations and details that are involved in such decisions. Rivlin also underscored that the role of the citizen in a democratic state does not end at the polling booth. “The best advice I can give you is to be engaged and involved citizens during the elections, but also to be engaged and involved citizens after the elections.”
■ EL AL, which will transport many of the visitors to Eurovision Song Contest in mid-May, is getting in on the wider Eurovision act with the help of 1998 Eurovision winner Dana International, which has been brought on board for El Al’s “help out the tourist” campaign. The singer will become an in-flight teacher providing passengers with instant useful vocabulary including slang, such as sababa, meaning that’s really cool or no problem; kama zeh (how much is that); ta’aseh mechir (give me a price); tafil moneh neshama, which when talking to taxi drivers means, turn on the meter, sweetie; bli harif for those who don’t eat pungent foods, achi (hey brother); and more. The lesson will be given via the digital service on the plane as well as on digital notice boards at Ben-Gurion Airport. Crew members who were present while the video was being made got a great kick out of co-starring with the singer.
■ IN ADVANCE of Good Deeds Day, which this year will be held on April 7, the Dan Hotels chain organized Dan Week in the Community, in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the chain, which has grown considerably since its inception. Each of the hotels in the chain contributed 70 gift parcels to 70 central welfare organizations and institutions such as hostels, youth villages, hospitals, etc. In addition, management and staff did volunteer work in various community outlets including, helping out in a center for senior citizens in Holon, holding a young chef’s competition for Elem’s youth at risk, renovating apartments for lone soldiers, conducting a pastry-making workshop in a youth village, preparing and distributing food packages to Holocaust survivors, working in the Ezer Mizion kitchen to prepare meals for distribution in hospitals, working in a kindergarten for children with special needs, giving spa treatments to residents of the Jerusalem Shelter for Battered Women, planting a special garden for children with disabilities, working with Yad B’Yad which helps children from low income families, and gleaning produce from the fields on behalf of Leket.
Meital Barnea, who is responsible for the Dan chain’s corporate cohesion, says that one of its primary values has been and continues to be contributing to the community through donations, cooperation and volunteerism.
■ MUSIC LOVERS who are patrons of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra will have an additional treat on April 1 – and no it won’t be a musical April Fool’s Day prank. In the course of a pre-concert wine and cheese reception, they will listen to a lecture that for a change will not be devoted to a particular composer, musician or musical composition, but to the joys of wine-making.
The lecture will be delivered by Kobi Arbiv, the chief winemaker at Recanati Winery. Afterward, there will be a performance of Mahler’s 9th Symphony conducted by Christoph Eschenbach, the brilliant conductor and composer, whose early childhood was traumatic, but whose musical talent came to the fore when he was eight, enabling him to overcome the tragedies of his young life. The audience will include a 40-member business delegation from Brazil. Mahler’s 9th Symphony is a moving experience on any occasion, but will be more appreciated by an audience mellowed by wine before the sounding of the first note.
■ ALTHOUGH IT never seemed to bother any of his predecessors if ANZAC Day fell during Passover, current Australian Ambassador Chris Cannan, is more considerate of Jewish Australian expats living in Israel, and has taken the rare step of moving the ANZAC Day commemoration ceremony from Thursday, April 25, to Monday, April 29. As usual, the venue will be at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem. ANZAC Day honors the memories of Australian and New Zealand soldiers who paid the supreme sacrifice initially during the First World War, following the disastrous landing in Gallipoli, so insensitively referred to this month by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan; and after that in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping efforts in which Australian and New Zealand soldiers served and email@example.com
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